From the dawn of time mankind has dreamt of Utopia, a place of ideal perfection and perfect happiness, a place free from conflict, disease, poverty, hunger and thirst. In other words, the perfect pub.
The good news is that mankind need not dream the impossible dream any longer, for I have discovered Utopia and it is indeed perfect in every way.
It turns out it’s a bar and restaurant in Luang Prabang, Laos.
Nestled along the banks of the Nam Khan River, the aptly named Utopia is a backpacker’s dream and a guidebook’s worst nightmare. You see, once you take a seat on the deck all other plans go right out the window.
The view is spectacular. Just to the right of Utopia sits an old Communist-era bridge, while down in front children laugh and shout as they tube down the river.
Like a Laotian Mecca for travellers, backpackers and flashpackers from all backgrounds make this bar their own and, as alcohol-induced social lubrication takes its toll, it becomes a great place to meet new people and swap travel stories and advice.
A few Beerlao later and you might even find yourself playing volleyball on Utopia’s own beach volleyball court.
Utopia has board games, too, free Wi-Fi and an extensive menu of Western and Eastern cuisine. As well as hosting live music on a regular basis, Utopia also projects live sporting events and movies on a big screen.
Finding Utopia can be difficult – which is probably why most people say utopia is an impossible dream or merely a fanciful philosophy – but it’s worth the quest. Luang Prabang may well be the most gorgeous place in Southeast Asia and Beerlao the region’s best beer – but you haven’t fully experienced either until you’ve visited Utopia.
It should only be about a 10-15min walk from Luang Prabang’s main street. If you find yourself crossing the Nam Khan River at any point then you’re going in the wrong direction.
You can ask the locals or other backpackers for directions or try following these directions taken from Utopia’s own website (don’t blame me if they’re wrong):
- From the corner near the Aussie Bar, walk down the hill about 50m and turn left down the alleyway next to the internet cafe and follow the signs.
- Same as above, except if you go past the internet cafe, continue 15m past Martins Pub, and take a left down the alleyway and turn right after the tiny bridge. If you see the gas station, you missed the alleyway.
- From Lao Lao Gardens, go across the street and down the alleyway past S-Bar. Walk across the temple grounds, down the stairs and follow the signs all the way to Utopia.